One year ago

Today ‘s August the 13th, 2014. Today’s my 12th wedding anniversary. Today’s a good day.

Exactly one year ago I woke up alone. I was devastated. I went into surgery that day. The day before I had been able to fly back home from a holiday that I had spent mostly in hospital. My husband and kids had to stay, the planes were booked out.

But others were with me. Friends. Family. My doctor.

I knew that my doctor was back in Germany with his family, but I also knew that he was still on holiday leave. Before I went into the theatre, the last thing that I heard was an anaesthetist telling me that “they were waiting for the chief physician”. I was able to reply that my doctor was still on
holiday leave but was told that he had been phoned and was on his way to the hospital – just for me.

My fears left me. Gratefulness flooded through me. I was safe.

What had happened? At the beginning of my holiday the radiated skin had had enough. A rejection of the implant had been initiated, the skin had opened up to release the implant to alleviate the pressure. This started within a day, within hours actually. It was accompanied by massive
backache, by exhaustion, by fever. The breast had a visible tiny hole that was surrounded by red-hot skin.

It started on Tuesday, August the 6th. I was spending time with my husband and kids in and around the pool, when I saw a tiny discolouration on my right breast. I knew immediately that something was wrong but was completely unwilling to accept it.

The next morning I felt crappy. The discolouration had deepened, the skin had begun to glow. My local friend phoned her doctor and we went to his practice together. He examined me and was visibly both shaken and clueless. He said that he would send me to hospital, but not the local one.
He suggested a hospital about 60 kilometres away. I was desperate. I went back to my holiday home, knowing that something was VERY wrong, but unwilling to fully accept it.

The next day we went to collect some oregano in our favourite valley. I had to just sit and rest. It was then that I decided that I had to act. Around 7pm that day, Thursday, August the 8th, 2013, we arrived at a tourist practice that we drive past every day, because it is situated on the beach road. The young doctor looked at my breast, took my temperature – and phoned her boss. He arrived within minutes and made it extremely clear to me that I needed medical attention AT ONCE.

For about two minutes I gave vent to my desperation, but not in front of my kids. We phoned our flight company, but they were completely booked out and said that there was nothing they could do for us. Then we went to our holiday home, packed my things and hit the road again. It dawned upon my kids that I had to leave them and stay in hospital. My older boy, then eight years old, went silent, my little boy, just six, was inconsolable. He could hardly breathe between his sobs. My husband was amazing. He talked to us, pulled himself together, even smiled. Added some sort of “normality” to that highly unnormal situation.

I was overcome by a feeling I have known ever since my first diagnosis. I went completely calm. Exuded strength and confidence. From our house the distance to the hospital was about 70 kilometres on a road that runs through the mountains. For almost two hours I managed to comfort and console my three boys, my husband included. I convinced myself of the necessity of my actions, my decision to hand myself over to others.

I have been extremely confident and positive throughout ALL of my hospital stays, ALL of my appointments with doctors, ALL of my six operations. Because this is what makes it at all possible for me to not only keep my chin up, but to enjoy life. My confidence and constant gratefulness have helped me more than once in times of dire distress.

And again I was rewarded. The doctor who welcomed me at the hospital was warm-hearted, reassuring, lovely, funny, and his English was excellent. I wouldn’t have been able to communicate all the complicated facts in Greek. I sent my boys home with a light heart, knowing that I was being
looked after very well indeed.

My room was more than pleasant. I could sleep a bit, with a cross-over of a cocktail of three different intravenous antibiotics working their way through my body. At that point it was assumed that bacteria had entered my breast.

The following days were spent mostly in bed. The food was outstanding, the view from my balcony beautiful, the temperate perfect. But although I always pulled myself together, the load on me was excessively heavy. My breast opened up more and more, I didn’t have a flight back. But I had to
keep myself going. I knew that I couldn’t let myself go. So I cried for exactly one minute, than stopped.

I listened to and watched Tim Minchin’s DVDs ‘Ready for this?’ And ‘Tim Minchin and the Heritage orchestra live at the Royal Albert’ 24/7.  It was a good thing to do, because it kept me from losing control, from giving in to fears, from becoming incapable of acting, of looking after myself. Today my sciency Minchy bit is my advice to focus on somtheing that makes it hard to feel dejected, because sometimes dejection robs you of the strength to keep going. I´d be grateful for articles or studies on this phenomenon.

So I surfed the internet for flights. On Saturday I was able to book at flight back to Germany that would take me home two days later, on Monday, August the 12th. Ever since then I have promoted ‘weekly Minchins’ and ‘prescriptions of Tim Minchin’. Haha!

I asked my husband to try and enjoy the holidays with our kids as much as possible and to refrain from visiting me every day. When they came I made them leave quickly. I couldn’t keep up my strength for the boys for more than half an hour. My husband did as he was told. I am massively grateful to him for his ability to trust me beyond question, without dispute.

I think that he has never, in the past two years, eight months and 23 days doubted my genuine strength, confidence, optimism, positive attitude. I love him even more for this.

So today is our eleventh AND twelfth wedding anniversary. Let’s party!


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